Monday, June 25, 2012

Conservatives Attack Budget Officer & Defend A Legacy

The Conservative government created the position of the Parliamentary Budget Officer and now, by criticizing it, the government is creating its legacy.

After creating the position of Parliamentary Budget Officer in 2006 this Conservative government could have complied to every request for information made by its first and current office holder Kevin Page. But after years of an orderly relationship the PBO would have remained at least ostensibly a Conservative institution.

Especially without opposition parties prompted to defend it, as they are now, the PBO would have been vulnerable to the whim of future governments, especially those wanting even less oversight.

As the PBO is intended to provide a check to government spending, in opposing the very office the Conservatives created, they have distanced themselves, and by implication future governments, from it and have instilled a quality into the PBO that isn't often found in our government, that of objectivity.

While withholding information and attacking Kevin Page is wrong, this Conservative government, by not eliminating that same office in purports to be a nuisance that oversteps its bounds, has begun a much needed tradition

A tradition that no matter what, no matter how much the party in power doesn't like an obtrusive stickler going over their books and holding them accountable, a government doesn't eliminate the PBO.

Yes it's wrong to withhold information from Kevin Page and doing so undermines his very position, but because the government has so aggressively criticized the PBO while at the same time not eliminating it, that office only becomes more entrenched, more respected as an objective and necessary check on government spending.

By picking this fight with Kevin Page the Conservatives have inadvertently set the bar higher for other future governments who would have preferred to have followed a government that neglected or weakened the PBO instead of this one that respected it, even under increased tension. Indeed considering opposition parties are now heartily defending the PBO it has made any future potential efforts by them to weaken it all the more difficult.

The Conservatives are wrong to attack the Parliamentary Budget Officer but they're right, even unintentionally, in creating its legacy of an objective check to this government, and to the ones that follow.

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